A U.S. Surgeon General's report issued last year found that youth smoking is still a "pediatric epidemic," driven by tobacco industry marketing that lures children to begin and continue using tobacco. Coming nearly 50 years after the 1964 Surgeon General's report first alerted the nation to the deadly consequences of smoking, the CDC's campaign is a crucial step toward ending the tobacco epidemic.
We applaud the CDC and the Obama Administration for continuing this national media campaign and for their leadership in the fight against tobacco use. Funded by the Prevention and Public Health Fund created by the health care reform law, this campaign underscores the fund's potential to improve health and reduce health care costs in the United States.
Background: Evidence that Media Campaigns Work
Substantial scientific evidence shows that mass media campaigns reduce the number of children who start smoking and increase the number of smokers who quit, saving lives and health care dollars. Public health authorities including the Surgeon General, the National Cancer Institute, the Institute of Medicine and the CDC have all examined the evidence and concluded that these campaigns work:
- The 2012 Surgeon General's report concluded, "Evidence indicates that mass media campaigns can be one of the most effective strategies in changing social norms and preventing youth smoking." The report also found "strong evidence that media ads designed for adults also decrease the prevalence of smoking among youth."
- A comprehensive 2008 scientific review by the National Cancer Institute concluded that "advertisements that arouse strong negative emotions perform better than those that do not. These advertisements tend to depict serious harm done by smoking or secondhand smoke in an authentic way…."
- States that have conducted extensive media campaigns as part of their successful tobacco prevention programs – including California, Florida, New York and Washington – have reduced smoking rates far faster, and to lower levels, than the nation as a whole. The evidence shows that media campaigns have helped drive these declines.
- Nationally, research found that Legacy's truth® campaign, targeted at young people, was responsible for keeping 450,000 teens from starting to smoke during its first four years.
- There is also growing evidence that tobacco prevention and cessation programs – including media campaigns – save money by reducing tobacco-related health care costs. A December 2011 study found that in the first 10 years of its tobacco prevention program, which included mass media, Washington State saved more than $5 in tobacco-related hospitalization costs for every $1 spent.